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The Best Starter Credit Cards of 2019

These are the best card options for first-time credit applicants and people looking to rebuild their score. Continue below our top picks section for an explanation of each card's benefits and potential drawbacks.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer.

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent/Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
Annual Fee
$39
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Citi's Secure Website

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

On Citi's Secure Website
Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair/New to Credit
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom®

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Secured

On Discover's Secure Website
INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
New/Rebuilding
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Citi's Secure Website

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's Secure Website
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent, Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Limited, Bad
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}
On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent/Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
Annual Fee
$39
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Citi's Secure Website

Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

On Citi's Secure Website
Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
  • The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card - the only credit card that automatically rounds up to the nearest 10 points on every purchase - with no cap
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within 3 months of account opening; redeemable for a $25 gift card at thankyou.com
  • 0% Intro APR on purchases for 7 months. After that, the variable APR will be 16.24% - 26.24%, based on your creditworthiness
  • Earn 2X ThankYou® Points at Supermarkets and Gas Stations for the first $6,000 per year and then 1X Points thereafter. Plus, earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 16.24% - 26.24% based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • No annual fee
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.24% - 26.24% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's Secure Website
Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.74% - 23.74%.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
14.74% - 23.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Fair/New to Credit
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5
  • No annual fee
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Chase's Secure Website

Chase Freedom®

On Chase's Secure Website
Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
16.74% - 25.49% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Discover's Secure Website

Discover it® Secured

On Discover's Secure Website
INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
  • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
  • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
  • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
  • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
  • INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
24.74% Variable
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
New/Rebuilding
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Citi's Secure Website

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's Secure Website
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
  • Earn cash back twice. Earn 2% on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • To earn cash back, pay at least the minimum due on time.
  • Balance Transfer Offer: 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.74% - 25.74% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Click "Apply Now" to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back.
  • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.74% - 25.74%, based on your creditworthiness. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi's discretion.
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
15.74% - 25.74% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Excellent, Good
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
  • Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
  • Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
  • It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Limited, Bad
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

On Capital One's Secure Website

Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

On Capital One's Secure Website
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One and is not part of our independent analysis.

  • Pay no annual fee
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get access to your account 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Help strengthen your credit for the future with responsible card use
Annual Fee
$0
Regular APR
26.99% (Variable)
Credit Needed
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"There are various types of credit scores. Each creditor uses a variety of different types of credit scores to make lending decisions."}
Average, Fair, Limited
Editor's Rating
{"onCurrent":true,"message":"Our team rates credit cards objectively based on independent research, the features the credit card offers users, and how it compares with other available cards in its category. The ratings are the opinion of our editors, and are not influenced by any outside factors, including any compensation the site may receive from certain advertisers."}

1. Discover it® Cash Back

Why we like it: Discover's credit card offerings are designed for people new to credit. The Discover it® Cash Back is our top choice for starters, due to the card's excellent earning potential and added features that make it easy for first-time credit users: i.e., paying late won't raise your APR, there's no annual fee, foreign transaction fee, or overlimit fee, and you won't have to pay a fee after your first missed payment.

Apart from the user-friendly payment features, the Discover it® Cash Back is also excellent for its cash back rate. You'll earn 5% on categories that rotate each quarter on up to $1,500 in purchases. To get the 5% rate, you'll have to activate the categories each quarter online. In the past, these categories have included gas stations, grocery stores, popular pharmacy chains, Uber, Lyft and more. For 2019, the categories include grocery stores (January-March), gas stations, Uber & Lyft (April-June), restaurants and PayPal (July-September), Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart.com (October-December).

Potential deal-breakers: You may not qualify for this card if you have bad credit or no credit history. However, people looking to rebuild credit can consider the Discover it® Secured, and students with limited credit history can apply for the Discover it® Student Cash Back.

2. Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Why we like it: The Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card is a cash back card designed for people with limited to fair credit. For a $39 annual fee, you'll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase. There are other cards that earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase without an annual fee—e.g., the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card—but you're more likely to get approved for the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card if you're new to credit.

Potential deal-breakers: You may be hesitant to apply for the Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card since the card has an annual fee. However, once your credit improves you may be eligible to upgrade your card to the no-fee Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card. If you're against paying an annual fee in general and you have limited credit, you may need to settle for a card without rewards, like the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card.

3. Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card

Why we like it: The Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card is one of our favorite cards for students, due to its unique earning structure. As a cardholder, you'll earn 2 points per dollar on the first $6,000 in purchases at supermarkets and gas stations, then 1 point per dollar. You'll also earn a minimum of 10 points per transaction, which is great if you make a lot of small purchases, and each transaction is rounded up to the nearest 10. A $3 coffee purchase, for example, earns 10 points, while a $33 supermarket run earns 70.

You'll also earn a small welcome bonus with the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card: 2,500 Citi ThankYou points after spending $500 on the card within three months. Worth $25 when redeemed for gift cards, this isn't an extremely competitive offer. However, a lot of cards for people with limited or average credit don't even offer a welcome bonus.

Potential deal-breakers: The $6,000 annual spending cap on the 2% rewards rate for supermarket and gas station purchases could be limiting for some. If you're a student with expenses in those categories that exceed $500 per month, you may be better off with a flat rate 1.5% cash back card, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

4. Discover it® Student Cash Back

Why we like it: The Discover it® Student Cash Back has the same earning structure as the Discover it® Cash Back; the key difference is that the card is geared toward students. Like the standard version of the card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back earns 5% back on rotating categories each quarter when you activate, up to $1,500 in purchases. For 2019, the categories include grocery stores (January-March), gas stations, Uber & Lyft (April-June), restaurants and PayPal (July-September), Amazon.com, Target, and Walmart.com (October-December).

In comparison to the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card, the sign-up bonus on the Discover it® Student Cash Back is excellent: at the end of your first year with the card, Discover will match all of the cash back you've earned. If you max out the 5% category each quarter, you'll get at least $300 for your welcome bonus.

Potential deal-breakers: If you're a high spender—or your spending doesn't fit within this card's bonus categories—the Discover it® Student Cash Back may not be your best option. You may be able to get more value from a card without a limit on rewards, like the Chase Freedom Unlimited®, which earns 1.5% back on all purchases. In most cases, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is an excellent first credit card for students.

5. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Why we like it: The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is a solid entry level credit card, especially if you plan on getting into the world of travel credit cards and rewards. You'll earn 1.5% on all purchases, and there is no cap on rewards and no annual fee.

One of the best parts of this card is that when paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve® you can transfer your points to travel partners in the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. These include JetBlue, Southwest, United and Marriott. When redeemed for travel on the Chase portal, your points will be worth 1.25 cents with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and 1.5 cents with Chase Sapphire Reserve®. If you don't have one of the Sapphire cards, the points earned with your Chase Freedom Unlimited® are worth 1 cent each.

Potential deal-breakers: If you don't have some credit history or an existing banking relationship with Chase, you may not qualify for the Chase Freedom Unlimited® as your first credit card. If this is the case, consider the Discover it® Cash Back as your first card. After six months to a year of responsible credit management, you'll likely be approved for the Chase Freedom Unlimited®.

6. Chase Freedom®

Why we like it: The Chase Freedom® is another rotating category cash back card. The Chase Freedom® earns 5% on rotating categories each quarter, up to $1,500 in purchases. The card earns 1% cash back on purchases outside of the bonus categories. If you max out the categories each year, you'll earn a total of $300 back on bonus spend.

In addition, the Chase Freedom® can be paired with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and Chase Sapphire Reserve® if you want to transfer your points to Chase's travel partners. Those cards have annual fees and require a more established credit history, so you can consider opening one of them once you've had the Chase Freedom® for a few months.

Potential deal-breakers: You won't have much use for the Chase Freedom® if you don't typically spend in any of the bonus categories. However, most people should have no trouble finding value in this card, as the bonus categories are usually in popular spending areas. In the past, the categories have included department stores, gas stations, grocery stores, home improvement stores, mobile wallet purchases, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more.

7. Discover it® Secured

Why we like it: Secured cards are a good option for people with no credit history. With a secured card, you put down a security deposit and are given a credit line equal to that deposit. These types of cards are usually used to build credit and don't offer spending rewards. However, the Discover it® Secured is our favorite secured credit card, because it comes with a rewards program—2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%.

Potential deal-breakers: You only need to apply for a secured card if you have no credit history. It's likely that you'll qualify for the regular version of this card if you already have a student credit card or some credit history from taking out a student loan.

8. Citi® Double Cash Card

Why we like it: The Citi® Double Cash Card is one of our favorite cash back credit cards without an annual fee. It earns an effective 2% rewards rate on every dollar—1% when you make a purchase, and 1% when you pay your bill. This is a great card for people who don't want to worry about activating rotating categories and whether or not a purchase qualifies for a certain cash back rate.

Potential deal-breakers: If you don't have any credit history, consider getting a secured card before applying for the Citi® Double Cash Card. In addition, frequent international travelers may want to consider a starter card that waives foreign transaction fees, like the Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited®. Otherwise, this is an all-around great starter card for people who qualify for it.

9. Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

Why we like it: Behind the Discover it® Secured, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is our second favorite secured card for people new to credit. It doesn't offer a rewards program, but it does give you the opportunity to get a credit line that's higher than the security deposit you put down. The card currently offers a refundable minimum security deposit of $49, $99 or $200.

Potential deal-breakers: Keep in mind that this secured card is geared toward people who are rebuilding their credit. As such, this is an excellent choice if you've made a mistake paying an auto loan in the past and you don't have any credit card accounts that demonstrate responsible credit management. If you're new to credit but don't have any negative marks on your credit file, you'll probably be able to qualify for one of the unsecured cards on this list.

10. Capital One® Platinum Credit Card

Why we like it: The Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is a worthwhile option if you have zero credit history or have made some credit mistakes in the past. The card doesn't earn any rewards, so the only reason to apply for it is to build or rebuild your credit. The card has a $0 annual fee, and you'll be able to access a higher credit limit when you make your first five payments on time.

Potential deal-breakers: As mentioned above, the sole purpose of the Capital One® Platinum Credit Card is to help you build or rebuild credit. If you have a decent amount of credit history from other financial products and are looking to get a starter credit card, we suggest that you look at other options. A cash back card like the Discover it® Cash Back or the Chase Freedom Unlimited® will provide much more value in the long term.

Summary of the Best Starter Credit Cards

Should You Get a Credit Card?

Pros

  • Getting your first credit card is an important step toward building credit
  • Paying your credit card bills on time and in full will set you up to qualify for low interest rates on loans in the future
  • Certain credit cards offer cash back rewards on your spending and even perks like airport lounge access and free hotel nights

Cons

  • Some entry-level credit cards have an annual fee and no rewards program
  • Interest charges can be expensive if you don't pay your bill in full
  • Missing a payment due date can significantly damage your credit score

Opening a credit card is an exciting and crucial part of your journey toward financial health. By establishing good financial habits and paying your credit card bills on time, you'll be on the road toward loan approvals and low interest rates. But first, you need to decide what type of credit card best fits your current needs. For most people, we suggest a simple cash back card that earns 1% to 2% on every purchase.

There are a few cases where you should wait to apply for a credit card. If you don't have a stable income stream, for example, you may want to hold off on applying for credit until you can reliably pay off your purchases. Alternatively, if you have a history of being late with your bills or overdrawing your checking account, you may want to practice responsible financial management with your debit card and checking account first.

One of the key components of having a high credit score is the average age of your accounts, so it's important to pick a credit card that you'll be happy to have in your wallet for a long time. This is why it's best that your first credit card is something with no annual fee: if you want to put your expenses on a different card in the future, you can stop using your first credit card without having to cancel it (canceling an older card can decrease your score).

How to Choose a First Credit Card

Credit cards come in two main forms: rewards cards and non-rewards cards. If you can pay your bill in full and on time every month, we suggest that you choose a rewards card. On the other hand, if you have a history of being late with your bills or missing payments, we suggest you choose a card without rewards that will help you build credit. Cash back and other rewards can be a great way to make a little money on your regular purchases, but cash back cards also tend to charge much higher interest rates.

The Best Credit Card for a First Time Applicant

If you can responsibly manage a line of credit, we suggest that your first credit card is a card that earns rewards, like the Discover it® Cash Back, Chase Freedom® or Chase Freedom Unlimited®. If your credit is damaged and you need to rebuild it by opening a new line of credit, the best move is to apply for a secured card such as the Discover it® Secured or Capital One® Secured Mastercard®.

What Is the Minimum Age Required to Apply for a Credit Card?

You can apply for a credit card on your own at the age of 21. If you're between 18 and 21 years old, you'll need a parent or guardian to co-sign your credit card application. However, if you have a stable source of income and are under 21, you can submit pay stubs with your application to prove you have financial independence and the ability to pay off your credit card bills. Otherwise, you may need to open a secured card.

Do I Have a Credit Score?

Most consumers have a credit score, even if they don't have a credit card. This is because all types of loan products are factored into your score, including student loans and auto loans. In addition, some calculations of your FICO score take into account phone and electric bill payments for consumers who don't have large credit files. You can check your credit score by using a free service like Credit Karma, Mint or LendingTree, our parent company.

Can I Get a Credit Card with No Credit History?

It's definitely possible to get a credit card if you don't have previous credit history. Your best bet is to apply for a secured card, which requires you to put down a security deposit that serves as your credit limit. If you're a student, we'd suggest opening a student card, like the Citi Rewards+℠ Student Card or Discover it® Student Cash Back. Once you've established credit history with a secured or student card, you can move on to a cash back, rewards or travel credit card.

Yowana Wamala

Yowana is a former product analyst at ValuePenguin, specializing in credit cards, rewards programs and travel. He previously covered mortgages, banking and insurance for the website. Yowana graduated from Columbia University with a B.A. in Political Science.

Comments and Questions

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).